Where in the World: Millennials, Untethered

"Where in the world is Frank Dineen?" It's a game his colleagues like to play.

Frank is an instructional designer for the SAP Learning Center of Excellence -- he designs learning programs for SAP employees. His work product is consistently top quality. He doesn't miss meetings. At 26, he gives us faith in the power of millennials in the workplace.

He also just happened to have spent his Memorial Day diving the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia, then wrapping up a virtual meeting at 4 a.m. Cairns-time in a hostel. Frank will likely spend 11 months on the road this year, some places a few months, some a few weeks (if that). And he continues working full-time for a manager based in the United States.

We could tie Frank to a chair, metaphorically speaking, and a traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. But why?

Frank is, by all accounts, a stellar employee. And he's not the only beneficiary of a flex schedule. He coached high school soccer in Georgia for a while, leading his team to a state championship and earning a statewide coach of the year honor. He would log off work early to work with the kids after school, then return to his computer at night. He benefitted, so did the community and all his work got done.

And then he took off for Austria to play in a serious adult league, and he's hopped about ever since. This isn't just about one gutsy young professional, though.

Frank and his fellow millennials are the next big cohort moving through corporate America. Much has been written about them. And while recent SAP-sponsored research by Oxford Economics blew holes in some of the prevailing opinions about millennials, e.g. that they care more about making a difference and less about making money than older colleagues, some do seem to hold water.

For one, they want choice. A Bentley University study found 77 percent of millennials say flexible hours would make them more productive at work, and "set them free" is on the list of key tips from PwC on how to manage them.

For another, this first generation of true digital natives is more likely to have the skills already to navigate a virtual office. They already live virtually and understand intrinsically how to communicate via digital mediums.

This doesn't mean it's always a smooth transition to the workforce. Recent college graduates often don't have work experience, and need a lot of coaching and guidance. Working remotely involves a definite skill set, from the tone of emails to ensuring that you remain a presence among your teammates, even if they can't see you in the next cubicle.

But the payoffs for remote work range from lower overhead to happier employees who are devoted to their workplace, according to a study from the Cranfield University School of Management in the United Kingdom, and many work harder when set free from strict time and location parameters.

Of course Frank's globetrotting takes working remotely to a whole different level, and he readily admits that it isn't for everyone. You have to be organized, productive and willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means working overnight. With privileges come some pain. But he values the opportunity he has so much, he says, he'll do whatever it takes to make the arrangement successful.

This kind of remote setup, I must point out, won't work for every manager, and certainly not every company. Regardless of how stellar an employee's work ethic, some roles require face-to-face collaboration and a regular office presence. Ultimately, the litmus test for remote work of any kind is productivity, and managers need to judge what will work for their team.

Frank's location becomes a running in-joke (you should see the memes Kelly's team created to celebrate his first overseas soccer goal) that brings the entire team closer -- and we get to keep a bright young mind in our fold. He's also puts his job first in order to keep the privilege of making his own schedule, and that benefits us. We give him a bit of leeway, and gain returns tenfold.

Win-win. See you in Singapore, Frank.